TT: Almost Here!

If  you’re looking for the Wednesday Wandering, just page back for a lively discussion of SF/F with a holiday or wintertide theme.  Then join us here for Christmas past and present.

JANE: Well, Alan, I’m starting to feel quite excited and full of Christmas cheer.

Cookies For Santa

My packages are in the mail and just about all the decorating is done. Christmas Eve is just around the corner. And then…

ALAN: And then it’s time for bed because Father Christmas is coming tomorrow!

My parents would force themselves to stay up until about 3.00 am to make sure that I was really sound asleep and then they’d put a huge pillow case full of excitingly wrapped presents just inside the door of my bedroom before they went off to bed themselves. In retrospect, I can’t help thinking that they brought the full horror of what came next on themselves…

An hour or so after my parents went to bed, I’d wake up, spot the pillow case that Father Christmas had left for me and start investigating all the parcels.  Often there would be drums to bang, racing cars to vroom, vroom around the bedroom, and science kits (batteries included) with which the adventurous boy could make door bells, air raid warning sirens and atomic bombs. One year I got an electric kit which contained an induction coil with two bare metal handles. I connected the batteries, turned the circuit on and grabbed hold of the handles. A massive electric shock threw me out of bed on to the floor, and I screamed with mingled pain and pleasure.

JANE: Oh, no!  How did your parents react to your scream?

ALAN: Much as they did to all the other Christmas noises coming out of my bedroom.  “Go back to sleep,” my father would yell every year. He was a very naive man, with no understanding of the ways of children. My mother would put on her red flannelette dressing gown and come into my bedroom. Between jaw breaking yawns, she would examine my presents with me and agree that, one and all, they were the best presents ever.

I miss that excitement. Presents in our house this year will be rather boring. I’m buying Robin two new front tyres for the car and she is buying me two new tyres for the rear wheels.

JANE: I must admit, Jim and I are suckers for surprises and special gifts.  Sometimes we can’t manage a surprise.  This year, Jim is getting a piece of pottery by Michael Kanteena, a local Indian potter who specializes in recreations of ancient works.  I saw Jim making eyes at this one pot and knew I couldn’t skip it.   However, most years, as the song says, “We try to surprise one another.”

Being American, we had Santa Claus, rather than Father Christmas, but the excitement and anticipation was the same.   My parents did a lot to build it up.  First, we were threatened with unmentioned penalties if we woke them too early (too early was still pretty early).  Even so, we’d wake before.  Then we’d creep into my brother’s room (it was closest to the stairs) and whisper until it was time to wake the folks.  Then we’d march downstairs and head for the stockings and investigate the unwrapped Santa gifts under the tree.  When this was done and we’d eaten something (Santa always included nuts and tangerines in the stockings) and my folks had coffee, we’d open gifts ceremonially, in order of age, with the youngest handing around packages.

Christmas morning was colored with scattered wrapping paper.  I still enjoy that, so, if we’re at home, the paper is all over the floor and the cats are jumping in and out of it, batting bits around and getting into any and all available boxes.  If we’re traveling, we follow the custom of the household.  My father-in-law takes great pleasure in grabbing each piece of paper, practically before it hits the floor, and either folding it up or stuffing it in a trash bag.  I admit, that startled me, some, but now I see it’s a game for him and take pleasure in that.

ALAN: Another very important Christmas Day ritual that dates from my childhood is listening to the Queen’s Speech. We would all make sure to huddle round the television set and turn up the volume. Queenie herself was always nicely dressed, sometimes formally and sometimes in a cozy twinset and pearls. Her hair was freshly permed. There was always a lavishly decorated Christmas tree in the background of the picture and Christmas cards on the mantelpiece. She spoke to us with the precisely enunciated, glass-etching vowel sounds of the English aristocracy.

“My husband and I…”

I feared for the integrity of our cathode ray tube, but it always survived unscathed.

JANE: Does the Queen still make a speech these days?

ALAN: Oh yes! I understand that in England it is still an important ritual, not to be missed. However it’s of much less importance here because the royal family is not an everyday part of our lives. Interestingly though, when I took out New Zealand citizenship, I was required to swear allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, Queen of New Zealand. Presumably she is quite a different person from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, Queen of England to whom I owed allegiance as a birthright.

JANE: Lacking a monarch, our televised rituals tend to be movies or themed programs.  When I was a kid, we watched several.  My favorites were “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”  When Jim and I got together, I introduced him to both of these.  He introduced me to the movie White Christmas.  Now, every year, we try to find time to watch all three before the holiday, if at all possible, although sometimes White Christmas, which is quite long, has to wait until after.

ALAN: When I was a child, for some strange reason the Christmas TV movie always seemed to be an impossibly young-looking John Wayne in “Stagecoach”. These days it tends to alternate between “Mary Poppins”, “The Sound Of Music” and “The Wizard Of Oz”.

And now it only remains for me to say Nga mihi o te Kirihimete to you and Jim and to all our readers.

JANE: Feliz Navidad to you and Robin and everyone else!  And wherever you are, in summer or winter, at home or on the road, Merry Christmas (or whatever your name for the winterfest may be) to you all…


6 Responses to “TT: Almost Here!”

  1. heteromeles Says:

    LIke the Zuni-themed gingerbread. I’ll have to try that next year.

    Feliz Navidad

  2. heteromeles Says:

    Alan, hope those earthquakes missed you.

    • Alan Robson Says:

      Yes, thank goodness. Communications (particularly aeroplanes) are chaotic at the moment, for obvious reasons. I have friends stranded in airports who now won’t get home until after christmas. I myself was away in Auckland on business and my flight home was delayed and delayed and delayed and delayed again. I just got home a few minutes ago (it’s just after 11.00pm here). I’ve been very lucky.

      I live in Wellington. We haven’t had the big one (yet). But it will happen one day. Meanwhile my thoughts are with my Christchurch friends. They’ve had a horrible year…


  3. Paul Says:

    “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “Miracle on 34th Street” (with a very young Natalie Wood) used to be our Christmas movies. Lately it’s been “A Christmas Story,” with little Ralphie lusting after a Red Ryder BB gun (as I did as his age, although I never got one. My mother really did say she was afraid I’d shoot my eye out.)

  4. Pati Nagle Says:

    Two favorite Christmas movies: The Ref and Die Hard. Really, they’re great Christmas movies!

  5. janelindskold Says:

    I love the suggestions of Christmas movies…

    And glad we inspired some cookie ideas!

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